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2019-08-17 18:22:201 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Rashida Tlaib (Image source: Public domain)
It's been a week of changed opinions with regard to traveling to Israel, most of the decision-changing being owed to Donald Trump's meddling. While Israel changed its mind yet again and agreed to let Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) visit in order to see her aging grandmother, she has decided to not travel after all.
The congresswoman is part of the informal group the "Squad" that includes three other congresswomen of color as well. They have been known to join together in legislative matters, and after Trump tweeted that they should "go back" to the countries they came from, it cemented the connection between them.
Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, were planning on traveling together to Israel. While it was initially going to be allowed, Trump urged Israel to not allow the pair to visit.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Trump ally, complied, reversing the country's decision and stating the visit would not be allowed.
However, later on Friday Tlaib said she would not be traveling to Israel under "oppressive conditions" to visit with her 90-year-old grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank.
This is because it wasn't really a reversal. Tlaib said she decided not to travel to Israel because if she did, it would be under a condition that would have required her to pledge not to "promote boycotts against Israel" while she is there.
Tlaib is known to be supportive of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that suggests boycotting Israeli goods and services out of protest of the Israelis' treatment of Palestinians. Her parents are Palestinian immigrants.
"The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter — reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and Palestinians living under occupation with United States support," said Tlaib in a statement.
She added that visiting her family under such "oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who were supportive of the two congresswomen's desire to visit Israel, heralded the about-face by the Israeli government.
"We commend the Israeli government for permitting Congresswoman Tlaib to visit her grandmother," the group tweeted.
After Tlaib changed her mind, Deri said, "Last night she sent me a letter asking to allow her to visit her 90-year-old grandmother 'because this could be my last chance to meet her.;'"
He added, "I approved it for humanitarian reasons, but it turns out that it was a provocation to embarrass Israel. Her hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother."
In her request, Tlaib wrote that it would be her last opportunity to see her and promised to be respectful of restrictions placed on her to not promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.
"If they prevent her from entering, what can we do?" Muftiyah Tlaib, the congresswoman's grandmother said from the house she's lived in since 1974. "We can't force them to let her in, so what can we do?
"She's in a big position, and she cannot visit her grandmother," she added, laughing. "So what good is the position?"
Omar tweeted Friday morning and expressed "strength and solidarity" with Tlaib.
After previously commenting that Israel's decision not to allow the two congresswomen to visit was "outrageous," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he was unaware of any other time when a member of Congress was asked to agree to preconditions to visit Israel.
"Not only was this request disrespectful of Rep. Tlaib but of the United States Congress as well," he stated.
"This matter is a self-inflicted wound by one of America's closest allies, one of our closest friends, and a vibrant democracy. President Trump's urging of such action and its implementation were — and are — unacceptable."
Netanyahu said in a statement that the two congresswomen "are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress."
"As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception," he added. "Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country."
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